Years after hospital employees were accused of snooping into the medical records of celebrity patients, UCLA Health System agreed to pay an $865,000 settlement for potential violations of federal privacy laws. The settlement that UCLA reached with federal regulators Wednesday did not name the stars specifically involved. The investigation by the US Department of Health and Human Services revealed that workers repeatedly accessed patients' electronic health records between 2005 and 2008. In a statement yesterday, UCLA said it has taken steps over the past three years to retrain staff and strengthen its computer systems.
At least two former UCLA employees have faced criminal charges for medical privacy violations. Former administrative specialist Lawanda Jackson, 50, pleaded guilty to selling information to the National Enquirer from the files of Britney Spears, Farrah Fawcett, and other high-profile celebrities. She died from complications of breast cancer before she could be sentenced. Former medical school researcher Huping Zhou was sentenced to four months in federal prison and fined $2,000 for reading the confidential medical files of co-workers and celebrities such as Drew Barrymore, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and Tom Hanks.